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If you think your partner or a loved one is suffering from this form of depression, encourage them to get help for the sake of their health, and the overall well-being of the family. “Left untreated, we know that postpartum mood disorders often worsen—and they can result in damaging, long-term consequences for a man, his marriage, and his entire family,” says Dr. Courtenay. “Research consistently shows that a father’s postpartum depression has a negative and long-term impact on the psychological, social, and behavioral development of his children—especially boys. We see this in children as young as two, all the way through adolescence, and into young adulthood. This remains true, regardless of whether the mother is depressed. If both parents are depressed, the child’s development is even more severely disrupted.”
Often the man’s partner, a family member or a close friend is going to notice that something’s wrong. If they can try to get him to open up, that would be a good way to start, says Dr. Hibbert. But she acknowledges it’s hard to make anyone to go to treatment if they aren’t willing. Online support is a great resource for men, like SadDaddy.com or PostPartumDads.org.
Research shows that talk therapy is very effective in treating depression, as is talk therapy in combination with medication. But there are lots of treatments that range from traditional to alternative. The important thing is that a man get help, preferably from a licensed mental health professional and one who specializes in working with men, says Dr. Courtenay.
Keep trying until you find the mental health treatment that’s right for you, say Dr. Hibbert. “We tell men, ‘You’re not alone, it’s not you fault, you’re not to blame.’ Dads might just think, ‘I’m a bad Dad,’ but no one should have to feel that way. If there are treatments available and they work—which they do—men should do them because otherwise this depression can go on for a long time.”
“The important thing to remember is that all of the negative consequences of PPND are avoidable,” says Dr. Courtenay. “Although it’s a very serious—and sometimes life-threatening—condition, with proper treatment and support, men can fully recover from PPND. Getting help can save a man’s life—or his marriage. And if a father can’t do it for himself, he should get help for the well-being of his child. Men need to recognize that depression is a medical condition – it’s not a weakness of character. For a man to admit he’s depressed isn’t unmanly or admitting defeat. It’s taking charge of his life.”